Saturday, May 26, 2007

Governors As Presidents: The Resulting Problem

While it's likely that the Shark has more finely-tuned (and elegant) comments on this issue, I'll toss the ball into the cage.

Over the past several months, the idea that GWBush is a 'Governor-serving-as-President' has crawled around inside my head.

It's clear that GWB had the right instincts regarding the 9/11 event (and its predecessor attacks on the US) and has chosen an effective way to keep the battle off US soil. For this he deserves all the thanks and credit which can be given him. Similarly, on the life issues, GWB has been consistent--and on the right side.

On the rest of the domestic front, however, GWB has been damn near a disaster; his spending programs are almost laughably excessive; his immigration program is universally disliked; his understanding of Con Law is weak (see, e.g., his signature on McCain-Feingold, or the continuing imbroglio over Executive powers vis-a-vis internal security), his appointments to the Cabinet are weak, (and he earned no gold-star for Ms. Myers, either) and he has invited the Democrats to construct a massive tax-increase program in response to the Federal deficit.

In short, GWB is a "Big Gummint Republican," which is the worst of all possible worlds for Conservatives; we have to hold our noses and vote for him--or perhaps, 'vote against the worse' is the way to put it.

Along comes Cato with an interesting paper. (HT: Captain's Quarters)

Federal spending on aid to the states increased from $286 billion in fiscal 2000 to an estimated $449 billion in fiscal 2007 and is the third-largest item in the federal budget after Social Security and national defense. The number of different aid programs for the states soared from 463 in 1990, to 653 in 2000, to 814 by 2006.

The theory behind aid to the states is that federal policymakers can design and operate programs in the national interest to efficiently solve local problems. In practice, most federal politicians are not inclined to pursue broad, national goals; they are consumed by the competitive scramble to secure subsidies for their states. At the same time, federal aid stimulates overspending by the states, requires large bureaucracies to administer, and comes with a web of complex regulations that limit state flexibility.

At all levels of the aid system, the focus is on spending and regulations, not on delivering quality services. And by involving all levels of government in just about every policy area, the aid system creates a lack of accountability. When every government is responsible for an activity, no government is responsible, as was evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

(The same can be said for State aids to localities and schools in Wisconsin, by the way. Just change the number of zeros and a few names.)

Cato bemoans the imminent Death of Federalism. The cause of this is bi-partisan; but another, equally descriptive term would be "bi-cravenism." Members of Congress (with a few exceptions) are fixated on one thing: re-election; and to assure that result, they apply the grease of Spending; and if they can force the several States to spend as well, (the usual hook buried in the bait) the effect is multiplied for whatever interests they happen to serve. The President can (and in the last two Administrations, DOES) cooperate in these efforts.

The Reagan Revolution did attempt to address this. A look at Figure 1 shows that the percentage of the federal budget devoted to state subsidies dropped from 1980 (15.5%) to 1990 (10.8%). By the time the Clinton era came to an end, it had reached a historical high (16.0%), about where it remains today. During this time, both Republican and Democratic executives and Congresses contributed to the problem

Going hand-in-hand with increased Federal "aid" is increased State and local spending (and consequently, taxing) as the States and locals must jump through certain, usually-expensive hoops to get the Fed moneys. (Does the Milwaukee Choo-Choo controversy ring a bell? Well, then, how about "Click-It-or-Ticket"?)

It occurs that one who occupies the Presidency should have a larger weltaunschuung than that demonstrated by Clinton and Bush; that treating the Presidency as a "Larger State Governor" position is wholly inadequate to the Federalist principles of the Constitution, particularly the now-dead-letter 9th and 10th Amendments.

And it is a prescription for fiscal debilitation of the taxpaying citizens.

Something to think about...


Richard E. Schallert said...

Why do we all continue to blame our elected representatives and/or governors or presidents for this excessive speeding by government at all levels.
Special interest groups of all kinds in almost every community keep urging their reps to get them some money from the government for what, to them, seems like a "worthy cause".
And the reps, wanting to be re-elected, bend to the demands of these groups. We ALL must STOP asking for State or Federal funds and truly sacrifice to live within our own community or state's means.
Of course, we really don't want to do that. Instead, we will keep pressuring our reps to GET US SOME 'FREE' MONEY!!
WE are the basic problem creating exessive government spending!

Dad29 said...

The reason, Richard, is that THEY actually write the bills and/or fail to veto them.

"Special interests" merely ask--they cannot legislate, nor spend tax money.

Do "we" cause the problem? Not really. "We" do not go to Madistan, nor the swamps of DC.